The Encounter With Our Sensei or Xiansheng (先生)
We walked on through the magical forest. The sky glistened through the leaves of the trees, and the forest canopy was filled with a shimmering light that seemed at times like mirrors. (I later learned that the leaves were, in fact, mirrored, mirrored in a special polarizing way, in order to reflect the heat of the day, but still obtain the benefits of sunlight and its life-rendering energy.) Licker looked up dozens of times, and clearly wanted to know more about the trees and their lives. Chico stopped and put his nose at the base of Licker’s head. They stood very still. Their eyes closed, and they seemed for several minutes like merged statues, one work of life-like sculpture, fastened to the ground and oblivious to the brilliant yellow sky. Then, after many minutes, Chico moved, shook, and stood back. Licker opened his eyes and gazed around with kind of child-like wonderment.
“I told him all about it,” said Chico. “In a way, more than I’ve told you, because I can speak to him in the language of smells and sounds, rather than logic and science. It’s….very effective, and not easy to describe to a non-canine being.” “Like me?” I queried, maybe just a little bit hurt. “Don’t worry,” said Chico consolingly. “You’re going to be able to do this in due course. Once you understand how to port, you will grasp a totally new level – a quantum level higher, in fact, literally – of communication with non-human persons. Your range of interpretive understanding will expand by several orders of magnitude. The universe and all that’s in it…will never be the same: it will be richer, more complex, endlessly varied, and astonishingly beautiful.” “I can’t wait, I just can’t wait!” I said ardently.
Chico looked at me with tender humor, and utter seriousness. “You’ll become a very different, much more expansive human. Great ability comes with great responsibility. You will have a new, and very compelling and absorbing mission.” I felt the weight of Chico’s words….but it was quite some time before I had fully grasped them. He was speaking of the battle against evil, and against entropy.
Eventually – and it was a long, quiet walk: still quiet air in a gentle, almost imperceptible whisper of a breeze; no birdsong, no cries of animals in the distance. There was, though, a kind of underlying hum, like the sound of a powerful, quiet engine.
“What is that quiet, constant motor-like humming? Sort of…in the background” I asked.
“I’m very glad you feel it, hear it” answered Chico. “It’s a necessary first perception that will lead to many others.” He smiled, and I could hear the gladness in his heart. “On your planet, planet Earth, there are nearly 5 million different species of insects, although earth scientists have only catalogued and named about 90,000 of them.” I rapidly did the math in my head. “Wow….we’ve only named about one fiftieth of all the species! We’re going to need a lot more entomologists to work on that project!”
“Yup,” said Chico, with quiet seriousness. “None of us knows very much, and that’s why we Woggs have to be immortal….it’s essential to develop the ability and technique – we get better and better at it, over time, over eons of time! – to sense, grasp, catalog and transmit the information about all the beings and things we encounter in our travels….to say nothing of dealing with the all-too-real problems of good and evil!”
“But you asked about the underlying humming of this planet. It’s the sound of insects, trees, water, sun and clouds communicating, and helping to understand what each of them is doing – to better grasp the need to coordinate their work and understanding.”
“Work…..work…” I mused. “What sort of work do you mean? Like creating things, building things, excavating, planning? What do they actually do?”
“It’s a great question. But the answer will have to wait. Now it’s time to meet your teacher. Our teacher. Stand still, relax, and look at the ground now. Keep your head down.” I knew that tone: it was serious, but not communicating danger…just….serious. Compelling, like the guidance of a loving parent.
I looked over at Licker, on my left. He, too, like me, was standing still, kind of casually still, his nose pointed at the ground, as if he were going to sniff something just below. His eyes were lowered, and he looked as if he were quietly praying. He seemed to be barely breathing. “Chico must’ve told him something,” I thought. He was as still as stone. I felt a shadow cast all around me, and right in front of me, on the ground, roots of a tree – ancient roots – grasping the earth in front. They had just appeared in the last few seconds, but they looked, for all the world, as if they’d been there since time immemorial. Yet they were newly there, where the ground seconds before had been clear and flat. The roots were greenish yellow, like the sky, large, powerful and deeply dug into the earth, feet with long toes, or tendrils, grasping and strong. They looked, seemed, both reassuringly tree-like, and disturbingly alive. And, indeed, alive they were. Alive as you and me.
Because I was still looking down, I thought I’d look carefully as well…carefully and intently at the roots that had recently appeared in front of me. The green-yellow exterior was more like the skin of a snake or alligator than an earthly tree, and there was also a certain transparency about the skin that I hadn’t noticed at first. I could see, just underneath the skin, the outer bark-like coating, channels and veins, and these, too, were somewhat transparent. Something, some liquid – sap, water, nutrients – was flowing and coursing through the channels of the roots in front of me, and I knew the owner of these roots was a living, moving, vibrant being. And I knew, in a flash, that this was our teacher.
I heard a rustling of leaves and motion above me, and in an instant, I felt something on my head. A crown of leaves and gentle woven matting, it covered my head like a loving winter hat put in place by your mother, with the sweetness of the material itself exuding affection, comfort, protection. I remembered that when I was a very young boy – perhaps 6 or 7 years old – we were having quite severe winters in New York, and it was a struggle to stay warm on the long walk to elementary school. That winter, for Christmas, my wonderful Hungarian grandmother crocheted for me a beautiful warm cotton-woolen hat. It was blue, baby blue, and it has ear-flaps that could be tied down in front, under my chin. It was so warm, so comforting, created with great love and care. I thought of it in a lightning bolt of memory that blazed for a fraction of a second, complete, entire, reassuring, filled with affection and the interminable thoughtfulness that characterized my grandmother’s love for me. It was present now, caring, protecting, reminding, a remembrance of things past, streaming down the hallways of time and memory.
Neither frightening nor threatening, it was so warm, reassuring, comfortable, even loving – I wanted to sleep, to dream, to give myself up to the sweet-smelling motherliness that occupied every facet of my attention and perceptions. I felt so tired, so drained from the billion-mile journey that I lay down, right there, my head and arms on the living roots, and fell asleep as I had never fallen asleep before, save as a very young, secure child, in the arms of my grandmother. I slept deep, long, and dreamlessly.
When I woke up, I had no idea if I’d slept for hours, days or months. I opened my eyes, and saw Licker next to me. I was lying on a large bed of soft, multi-colored and beautiful leaves, as gentle and verdant as a living autumn sofa. I reached out my hand, and touched his flank. He turned his head towards me, opened his deep brown eyes and stared at me. Then he spoke…spoke as Chico spoke, inside my head, in the language unique to clear telepathy. Without any change in his facial expression, he addressed me as if he had been speaking clearly to me since the day he was born.
“Did you sleep well?” he queried. He asked with such kindness, such concern, like a true friend speaking of important things, not simply a casual or automatic and polite question.
“Dear God, Licker,” chirped a tape-loop in my head; “Dear God, how I love you, my friend.”
“I slept like an armadillo……protected and curled up.” I spoke in my head, in the way I had learned from Chico. I had never before spoken in this fashion with Licker. While I wasn’t surprised, I was utterly delighted, and also pleasantly just a bit taken off-guard. So much had happened already, so many surprising things, and this was just another other-worldly event amongst many other remarkable unearthly events.
I knew Licker so very well, as he had come into our lives as a three-months’-old puppy – and for his part, he knew my habits better than I knew them myself. He had already saved my life once, in our terrifying encounter with the Warrg, and my gratitude to him was ever-present and boundless – layered above my enduring emotional admiration and affection. So intuitive, I often thought – he is so intuitive and insightful, a consequence of his amazing powers of attentiveness and perception. It crossed my mind that he had a kind of perceptual laser-vision, and perhaps, just perhaps, it would someday transform into the amazing blue-light laser-like visual weapon I had seen Chico use against the Warrg. I was not far from wrong.
“When did you learn to telepath?” I asked him. He smiled, a beautiful broad grin. “I’ll bet you can figure that out if you think about it,” he said with a chuckle. I thought back to the many, many things that had happened, and then remembered the moment when Chico put his chin on Licker’s head and rested there for what seemed an eternity. “Yes,” said Licker, reading my thoughts, “that’s when it happened. Chico somehow flipped on a switch in my brain, a switch that was always there…and I’m now like him. He said that it was a genetic switched expression that all dogs carry.” He laughed….”Except of course I’m a lot bigger – when Chico’s his normal size, of course….since I can’t compare to him when he’s in battle-mode…”
I thought back to when Chico had launched himself at the Warrg, and replayed that terrible and terrifying minute in my mind. He had been huge….at least as large as the Warrg himself, and blazing with laser-like weapons of irresistible destructive power. I shuddered. “You saved my life, Licky,” I said, with some emotion. “You really did. I’m so glad to have the chance to tell you directly how grateful I am, and how I admire your courage.” “Oh, posh,” he chortled. “All in a night ‘s work. You’d do the same for me.” “Yes, I would….but your fearless action was instant and effective. You have the heart of a warrior of the Light.” “Well, I’d have been a lot more effective with a bit of laser-vision and the skill to port myself behind the Warrg.”
I thought about that for a second. Of course! I thought. How silly of me to not realize this earlier. I had only been thinking of teleportation as a long-distance rapid-travel method….to hop from star system to star system. But its effectiveness as a short-range fighting tool would be remarkable….to avoid an enemy’s strike; to attack an enemy from behind; to remove yourself from the possibility of harm when faced with an unconquerable foe….these teleportation skills would be more than invaluable: they could easily be life-saving and key winning strategies. I saw it all, like a complete, detailed Hieronymus Bosch triptych, in a single grasped-by-the-short hairs instinct.
Licker knew right away what I was thinking, as I hadn’t guarded my open thoughts. “Yes, yes,” he chimed in. “You got it. Remember when Chico said that he had to proceed with our training more rapidly? This is precisely what he was talking about.”
For the fifth time in fewer hours than that, my brain was reeling with new information and vast ideas. I got it. Remarkable. Chico was going to teach us the art of being a warrior. A winning warrior. No Warrg will be able to stand against us, I thought; Licker and I are invincible together. Our affection, mutual admiration and combined skills will always win. I had no idea at the time how tested and tried we would soon be.
Licky raised his eyebrows. “Come,” he said. “Chico is calling to us. We need to find him and begin our training.” He got up, and I dutifully followed.